Hendrik Nicolaas Azon Jacometti (*1926)

Memories, 1926-1951

My youth: 1926-1940

I was born in 1926, in Rotterdam/Hillegersberg (on the Berglustlaan), the third child of my parents. I had two older sisters, Jacoba Nicoletta (Coty), born in 1919, and Albertine Henriette (Ties), born in 1923.

I never knew either of my grandfathers, only knew Oma Pouts and Oma Jaco. I do not remember my father ever telling me anything about his parents or grandparents and relatives. Nor can I remember having heard such stories from the Oma's.

There is a dutch childrens rhyme with boterspaan:
  Klikspaan, boterspaan,
  Je mag niet door mijn straatje gaan.
  't Hondje zal je bijten,
  't Katje zal je krabbelen.
  Dat komt van al je babbelen.

[Klikspaan boterspaan, you can't go through my street, a dog will bite you, a cat will scratch you, that's because of all your talk.]
A boterspaan is a flat, wooden spoon to scrape butter. A klispaan is a child who tells tales. The first words in the song are sound-associative. But in colloquial (older) dutch a boterspaan is also used for large, yellow incisors.

Of Oma Jaco, Henriette van Hulstijn, I remember she had yellow teeth, which I remarked on as a small child saying: "Oma, what yellow teeth you have". Her reply was: "You can not talk with your boterspanen". Also, she was "Zo zwart als mijn laars" (as black as my boots), as the Poutsma brothers said, who lived much of their working lives in Indië. And even Paps might have said that, although he was an "indische jongen" himself!!!  Paps had a darker skin, like his mother, being of partly Javan descent. He was a real "katjang". That is all I remember. Oma Jaco lived until 1952, but then I had already emigrated to New Zealand.
Oma Pouts, Cornelia Tigler Wybrandi, came to live in Scheveningen (Den Haag) around 1930. She lived with "zuster Anna", a redhaired nurse, in a street near the remise of the Haagse Tramweg Maatschappij (H.T.M.). She had, I remember, a large collection of tin soldiers. She later moved to the Gevers Deynootweg in Scheveningen. During the war she had to move in with us at the Bezuidenhoutseweg 480 in Marlot, Den Haag. She died there in 1946, when I was just 20.

My father had studied law in Leiden, he started in 1914. He then worked for Slavenburgs Bank. The head office of that bank was in Schiedam, where Thijs Slavenburg himself lived. The branch Rotterdam, where my father was director, was at the Diergaardelaan.  [This part of Rotterdam has been razed, after the bombing at the start of WW II, and is completely gone.]  I remember getting a haircut in the Bijenkorf in Rotterdam, and visiting my father at the Diergaardelaan where he showed me how door of the bank vault was opened. This must have been when I was four or so.

My mother was born in Leeuwarden, Friesland, living with the family on "Het Instituut" (a boarding school). They had moved 1909 to Bloemendaal (suburb of Haarlem) near the dune "Het Kopje", after her father had died. She married my father in 1919, being 24. Later, we often went out to a restauranrt on that wedding date.

In my early years, we lived at the Berglustlaan 33 in Hillegersberg, a suburb of Rotterdam. Our unit (photo at left, from "streetview") was at the ground floor plus one floor up. At the back of the Berglustlaan was a "slootje" (small canal) were we could canoe to the "Bergse Plassen". We also had a wherry in our boatshed in the backyard.
My time in elementary school (at the Adriaan van der Doeslaan) I remember only vaguely. There was meneer Hoogendorp, the head master of the school. We sang an "aubade" with the school children in front of the townhall on "Koninedag" (Queens Birthday). In an operette performed in the "schouwburg Lommerrijk", on a "peninsula" in the "Bergse Plassen" (the local lakes), I played the "kanneman". In it we sang: "Wij kinderen van Modderstad, wij houden volstrekt niet van een bad, in wassen hebben wij geen plezier en om poetsen geven wij geen zier" (we children of Mud-City, we do not like to have a bath, washing does not give us pleasure, and scrubbing is not our thing). I must have been about seven or eight. This school often organised musicals.
My best friends there were Harry Bodee and Pietje Vervoort.

From the time in Rotterdam I remember several people that were close to my parents. I mention a few.
I remember the NSB-er, Baron Willie van der Feltz (oom Willie), coming home with my parents. National Socialism was quite a good idea for many Dutch people, but that faded out soon when Hitler took the wrong turn. Paps had to deal with the NSB (the Dutch Nazi party) too. In his function as bank director he was approached to become a member, which he did not like, and he did not join.  After the war, son Pietje van der Feltz (he was my age, with brother Warmold and sister Riborg) ran a petrol station near Zwolle. The van der Feltz's had a "landgoed" (an estate) in Epe with a caretakers cottage called the "Stokroos". We stayed there when on bike trips with my mother to the Veluwe, while my father was to sea with the Lels on their tugs, the "Zwarte Zee", the "Witte Zee", and others. This illustrates the holidays were always without him. Except in 1939, a trip to Strobl in Austria, where on the way we passed through München and saw Hitler parading. I remember coming back from that holiday, coming over de border into Holland, that all the flags were out because Princes Irene van Oranje was born on Agust the 5th, nice to welcome me for my birthday.

Another good friend was oom Henry de Voogt, who also was a clubmember from Leiden; he later built, near Haarlem, many boats (especially for rich customers, royalty). One of these was the Iduna (see image), and on her we sailed along a bit on the "Kaagse Plassen". His son Frits still builds boats mainly for the oil magnates in the middle east.

Some time in the middle 1930s we moved to The Hague, in Marlot, at the Bezuidenhoutseweg, Nr 480. The house was bought mostly with my mothers money.

Mams was just a full-on mother. One phrase I remember vividly, from when we children did something nice or pleasing. She would say, full of admiration: "Maar kind, maar kind, wat is dat prachtig" (oh child, o child what is that marvellous).
She played the piano and we sang with her. One song I remember was in Frisian, it had to do with a boy seeing a girl "in Bolsward on a fair". [The full text, in Frisian, is from E. Halbersma.] Actually, he is seventeen and the girl turns out to be just sixteen.... The text of the first stanza (with translation) is

Te Boalsert yn 'e merke,  seach ik in famke gean.
Ik tochte, bern! wat biste tûk,
Sa jong en prûs, sa nuver smûk.
Ja, nuver smûk, ja, nuver smûk,
Sa tsjep yn sneinske klean.


In Bolsward at the fair, I saw a girl walk by.
I thought, my dear, you do have flair,
So young and charming, singularly pleasing.
Yes very pleasing, yes very pleasing,
So well proportioned in sunday's clothes.

After having read the memories by Evelien, Henkie remembers the cat "Gekje" (crazy), who got run over by a car. Then Mams wrote a poem:

Lieve Gekje,
bijterig bekje,
alles was bij jouw kapot....

Dear Crazy,
biting mouth,
all on you was broken....

Mams loved her "Poesen" (the cats), which were replaced after they died over the years. She wrote music and poetry with her friends locally and in "Het Gooi" (north of Utrecht). Ada Prins, also in Marlot, who was a well known expert scientist of moulds as well as a painter, attached to Oom Lex Brouwer, also a painter. And of course Oom Bertus Brouwer, the fourth dimension expert, living at Torenlaan in Laren. [The Brouwers were distant cousins through Oma Pouts.] The Brouwers had plenty of room, and lovely friends, like Tine Langhout, interior architect with her funny husband, "the Babbert".
Mams used to bike with us to Het Gooi, me in "het bakje" (a basket mounted on the bike), but later with my own bike, to Laren. We went often, especially because you could bike there! We also often went through the larch forest near Nunspeet on the Veluwe to the "Stokroos" in Epe (of uncle van der Feltz).

When we lived in Marlot, Mams and I went together, me in a race canoe and Mams in the big one complete with a small tent, on the water the Wetering, on the Vliet to Leiden, on the Oude Rijn to Vianen. There were Boskoopse freight barges, who Mams asked to tow her, good rides along, with me hanging on her canoe. I remember also going to Gouda on that trip. We were peddalling over large patches of "kroos" (duck weed), finally along a corner and found that we could not go on because there was a railway dike in the way. So we had to pull the canoes over the railway dike and tracks and then canoed on to a cheesemakers paddock with bulls. She was a Mother!!!
Coty, my eldest sister, went to a Gymnasium in Rotterdam, where she fell in love with her french teacher, Ton van Ditmarsch. Paps and Mams tried to break up that relationship, by sending her to Vevey in Switserland, but Ton, who was Mams age, went there too. They married and lived in Overschie.

The house in Marlot. My room was above the front door. Photo ca. 1940.

Ton had a Rockney car, was a reserve captain of the Huzaren of Boreel, and had a funny tounge with a grove created by the gap in his row of teeth.

We moved to Marlot, a suburb to the north-east of Den Haag. I must have been in Marlot elementary school 1934 or 36 or so. I went with Ties along the Leidse Straatweg in Wassenaar looking for horse chestnuts. I climbed the tree while Ties collected them. A police officer came along and Ties told me to come down fast... fast alright, I stepped on a dead branch and came down. Ambulance, home, Mams in tears asking: is he dead? Percussion... have never been the same!!! No wonder I have blurred recollections.

Next to our house was a piece of unused land, with gras, shrubs and a tree. It was not large, and it was called "Tiengemeten" after an island in South Holland said to measure 10 acres. It was nice to roam there! With my friend Wim van Dijk we once collected a "bruinvis", hung it in a tree there to keep the cats as well as Hanneke de Lint's dog Herta away from the fish. The whole neighboorhood suffered the mighty stink....

Paps worked in Rotterdam and mams brought him, in the morning, to the tram station for his trip to work. Paps came to watch me playing hockey at "Klein Zwitserland" in The Hague. Paps himself played hockey in Bloemendaal, with the club of his younger years. Later he played soccer in Rotterdam even although we lived in Marlot. I recall Bettina, the black sheep of the family, staying with us in Marlot, curing a damaged muscle of Paps collected in a Saturday soccer game. Bettina, who lived at Capri, was a woman with many intriguing skills, herbs and potions. She had one son Luca, by an italian admiral, lived with Franco of Spain during the revolution and had been in jail in Cairo. There was a brother, my "Ingenieur" Uncle Albert, who spent years in the Dutch Indies, working on railways, and known to be involved with the "manzarde kap" (wide but not high roofs) installed at railway stations; he lived in Amsterdam. And Tante Ade, Paps sister, married to accountant Jan Deenink, living on het Kenau Park Haarlem, where we stayed on "Oud and Nieuw" (New Years Eve). They had a son (Mark) married to Lilo who, I think, was involved with the publisher Elsevier.

War time: 1940-1945

When I was 14, The Netherlands were invaded by the german army. Thus for The netherlands, WW II started. This included the bombing of Rotterdam.
I know I was in Marlot when Rotterdam burnt in May 1940 due to the bombing. I vividly remember seeing from Marlot the large cauliflower cloud!!

I remember that not long after that fire and after most of the rubble was bulldosed away, Paps had to go to Rotterdam to open the vault and retrieve important documents, if any were still available. Paps also retrieved the "Bul" of his Leiden University title; I still have it, the lacquer has melted and the document is glued up. And I still have the Jaarboeken (yearbooks) of Paps' club "The Lyons", of "The Novitii", also the booklet created on the occasion of him, in January 1919, obtaining the official title of Master of Law ("Mr.").

Marlot was taken over by the german army in 1940. There were many Jews living in Marlot. The Pintos, Kats, Frenkle and many more disappeared on the day of the invasion. Their houses, and "het flatgebouw" (the apartment building), were taken by the germans soldiers with all their possesions. Because the immediate coastal region had to be vacated, including part of Scheveningen were Oma Pouts her house was, she came to live with us in Marlot.
Later, as of 1943, the V-2s (german unguided rockets; photo) were launched from behind Marlot. The german soldiers, living in the apartment building, were deserters; their only chance to avoid death for treason was to take on this dangerous job. During the daytimes the (allied) Spitfires and Hurricanes straffed the building.
At night the V-2s were hoisted up along large oak trees (in winter the soil frozen), alcohol was pumped in for fuel and they were shot off to Britain. With the firy tail going up I could see the shadow on the ceiling moving down to the floor and go away. Not always did they go, perhaps because the soil was not hard enough, and they lay there for a while, sluttering, and then explode. Those were scary moments. I had to race around the windows to loosen the clamps to save our glass in the explosion to come, that is, what was left in the windows. During the day the guns of the planes shot at the german occupied buildings, while some times people came running from the street to our door for shelter in our cellar. One time a trader with a horse and cart abandonned his horse, which was killed by the gunfire. One man was so frightened that he wetted his pants in our cellar, while others prayed. Coming outside when the raid was over, people took some meat from the dead horse.... people were hungry !!

Yes, during the later years of the war we had hunger indeed, especially in 1944/45, like many people in the Holland provinces. Food was rationed but there was way too little. I once cut a tree down for a woman in the neighboorhood and she gave me a tin of sardines, which we shared, Ties and Mams and Paps. For food, Mams went out to the farmers in the countryside with diamond rings and might come home with potatoes. Paps suffered hunger oedemia, but he survived.

In The Netherlands, especially in Holland, regular life slowly was abandoned. I could no longer go to school and had, as an "able young man", to hide ("onderduiken") for the german occupiers. I mostly stayed in Marlot but had to be watchfull for raids. The photo of me was taken in about 1943. As of 1944 we lived above the bank offices in The Hague, Marlot had become too dangerous. Here I learned to play the clarinet for a while.

After the war, I had to catch up schooling. That did not go well at home. After those years of "freedom" for me as youngster, I did not fit in well any more. My father called a friend and teacher in Bussum to help and so I went there. I went to the "Baarns Lyceum". I was in the "gymnasium" branch at the lyceum, in which I had to learn the languages german, english, french as well as latin and greek. I again played hockey, was soon in the 1st team of the Baarnse Hockey Club. Thereafter I played in the club at Laaren. In those years I saw much of our family friends, the Brouwers and others.

After high school: 1947-1950

Having received the Diploma (in 1947), I went on a tour through Europe. We had little in material for on the road. With my friend, Jan Knoppers, we had bought a blanket, painted that black, then cut it up to make something like trousers without pockets and with a flap up front, held up by two round buttons.
Together with red shirts we much looked like people in traditional Volendam attire. And we were wearing brand new "klompen" (wooden clogs). On our trip, we attracted quite some attention.
Already in Breda (southern Netherlands), where we were awkwardly walking on our new klompen, danish tourists descending from their bus took pictures of us. The whole trip was "auto-stop" (french for hitch-hike). We were in Paris. Later we also were in Bordeaux. Here our clothing drew attention as well. We were called (or called ourselves) "Hollandais laveurs" (streetwashers). A photo taken appeared in the newspaper there. In town, there was a bar run by "Piet" who was willing to put us up. There, people offered us drinks, which we accepted (but had agreed with Piet to just serve us cold tea). Piet made in this way some extra earnings. But we also accepted the real drinks. In addition we washed the street in front of his place so that it brille bientôt comme un mirroir ("shone like a mirror"; see text with photo).
The trip continued to the Côte 'd Azur and on to Switserland, where the photo at right was taken on the Furka Pass (me at left, Jan at right).  [A year later, Jan Knoppers made a similar trip with another friend of mine, Eelco Boswijk, who was wearing my suit but of course had fitting clogs.]

Surabaya: 5 mariners and 3 marvas; Henkie sitting, 3rd.

After this summer I was drafted. In my military service I was with the marines. Also Frits de Voogt was there; we went into the training for officers, from which I escaped after a while. After basic training I was sent to the East Indies. We boarded ship (the S.S. Volendam) in Rotterdam on 25 March 1948 and arrived in Batavia on 23 April. [The Netherlands was fighting to counter the struggle of the people for independent Indonesia.] Both the captain of the ship and the military commander on board complemented the soldiers in writing for their pleasant and correct behaviour during the trip.
I was stationed in Surabaya and on the Island Madura. 
Java was for me a completely new part of the world: tropical vegetation and rice sawahs. In the distance there were volcanoes. And we had earthquakes. Often, on military patrol, did we see and feel undulating land (also the trees waved), but there was no ash, only disruptions of the padi in the sawahs.
For us it was never dangerous because we were out in the open fields.
But the time in the military was heavy duty. When on patrol, we might be shot at. And then we shot back. Whether I killed people I cannot know for sure, for, if a person in a rice paddy disappears, he may have been hit or just threw away his weapon and hid behind the rice plants.  [The photos shown are from the Surabaja area, 1947-1949, taken from internet archives (left, right);

During military duty, Henkie wrote letters to his family. They are on official paper. Two of these, to Anja, the younger daughter of Coty, about 8 years of age, still exist.

25 September 1949: We have been to bull races! Two bulls would pull a sled and two pair would run against each other. "Inlanders" waited at the finish to catch them by their ropes. The bulls then snorted vehemently, it was a tremendous noise.
  I have a tan like an ape! I have not seen one in the bush but a few apes are here in the camp. One had entered the office of the commander and made a mess of all the paperwork....     I soon collect and send you more stamps. ... Give greetings to Evelientje and Peter. Kisses from your brown mariner.

photos of the nasty side of the war have been suppressed by officialdom.]

Once I flew from Surabaya to Batavia to visit my uncle Henk Poutsma, my mothers brother, who lived there, working for the company called Internatio. I flew in a military plane. It was terribly cold! These planes had no insulation and at 3000 m altitude the outside air is, also in the tropics, already very cold.
Oom Henk Poutsma, like me born on the 5th of August, was in Batavia the running boss of "Internatio". During WW II, Indië was occupied by the Japanese. Oom Henk's knowledge of languages made him useful to the japanese occupiers of Indië. He nevertheless was taken by the Japanese to work on the "Birma Railroad"; but his feel for how to approach the Japanese helped him survive the camps there. His wife and children had been interned on Java. [This uncle Henk became in 1962 general manager of the American Chamber of Commerce for The Netherlands, the AmCham]. Later I saw him often in the Hague. He divorced his wife Lucy, who I went to see at the retirement home Rust and Vreugd (also Paps lived there later in life). I also saw his daughters, Frouk (Fisher, divorced), who remarried Ben Lips (of the lock factory, taken over by Chub) and Suzanne, architect, who also visited me later in New Zealand.

1950: Emigration to New Zealand

After the military service in the Dutch Indies I came back to The Netherlands. Things had changed there, and I probably had changed, too. My girlfriend had left me for somebody else, I was very down. My father had tried to organise a job for me, something with the Shell company, but I did not like that. In all, I wanted to get away. And so I did.

As country for my emigration I had choosen New Zealand, which for dutchmen was a popular destination at that time.
I did not want to go by plane. From Uncle Bernard van Ommeren I heard that he had a tanker being built in Gotenburg in Sweden, and I could make on it the maiden trip to Lyttelton, New Zealand. All I had to do was to fly to Sweden, sign on as a mess boy and disembark in NZ.

Henkies emigration tanker.

So I did that and in December 1950 the ship left Gotenburg. The tanker went to Persia to get oil at Abadan, the persian port near the coast, a little upstream on the joined Euphrate and Tigris. But when leaving the Persian gulf, orders for the oil tanker changed in going to Buenos Aires, instead of NZ. I asked Uncle Bernard if I could get off in Buenos Aires and there find my way to NZ, which he agreed to. In Buenos Aires it was Carnaval time and after it was over I found a Norwegian freighter to take me via the Straits of Magellan to Long Beach (Los Angeles) and finally to San Fancisco. There I spent a couple of months, gardening and canning chocolate milk for the army on contract, crossing the Golden Gate many times and working in Berkeley.
Then I got a job on a Swedish freighter, the Boulangena, to Sydney.
In Sydney, I met up with former "mariniers" from military service on Java. I stayed there for about 3 months, cleaning a newspaper building, making fondant for Onslow and selling "Pura-Mock" (it was some fake cream of the Pura dairy company) to corner dairies. Then I took a passenger ship, servicing Australia and New Zealand, to Auckland, the "Wanganella" (see picture). (Much later, in New Zealand, we owned a boat which I called Wanganella.) I hitch hiked from Auckland on the North Island to my goal, Amberly, north of Christchurch on the South Island. A friend of ours, Henk Kraaivanger, knew Harold Greenwood (1886-1972), who lived in Amberly. I had a letter of recommendation that said that I was not just a farmer(s boy) but well educated. I arrived at Amberly November 1951, a year later than originally planned and expected.

The first months in New Zealand

My job at the Greenwoods was to mend things but there was also plowing involved. Mr Greenwood also owned a race horse. I had to call the daughters of the house "Miss Daphne", etc. But I was allowed access to their library, which was good at long evenings.

At Harold Greenwood I worked for a number of months. Harold Greenwood was the first man who was my boss. I had never worked for wages in my life (except with the Marines, and the £ 4,10 a week in Australia). It was the beginning of being frugal and saving as much as possible. My job was mending chaf bags (into which the rats made holes) and tractor driving, "tedding" the hay in the paddocks. "Gloaming", the famous N.Z. race horse, was bred as well as burried there. The "Groom" suggested me to ask Mr. Greenwood to put some of my wages on the horses the Groom would indicate to me. My small investments paid off. But I did not stay there long, because I learned I would never own land working on it. So I went to Christchurch.


Henkie married twice.

1. x 28-04-1953 Christchurch (New Zealand) Judy Gow.
*1954 Nicolaas, lives in Tasmania, Australia; *1955 Lucas Peter, lives in Tasmania, Australia; *1956 Amanda, lives in France.
The marriage was dissolved in 1963.

2. x 02-1973 Christchurch (New Zealand) Aprilla Margaret Harriet Stanford, *12-04-1939 Kaikura (NZ).
*03-10-1974 Christchurch, Marco Alexander Azon Jacometti, lives in NZ;
*01-09-1976 Christchurch, Timothy Jacometti, lives in Canada.

Back to the genealogy of Henkie Jacometti.

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